FGCU Water School studying toxicity of airborne blue-green algae

Published: August 11, 2022 5:59 PM EDT
Updated: August 11, 2022 8:34 PM EDT

Blue-green algae is a toxic issue no one wants to see in Southwest Florida waters.

Now, FGCU is receiving thousands to help study the airborne toxins released by the algae.

Its toxins pose a risk to sea life and to people around it.

The school spent $83,000 to buy a machine to study the toxicity of the blue-green algae.

FGCU Water School professor Barry Rosen and research assistant Trinity Allan want to know how these toxins travel and get into our bodies.

“We have designed a chamber and we use that where we put cyanobacteria in the chamber, we blow air into the chamber,” Rosen said. “We’ve been using three different speeds to simulate real air. And then on the other side of the chamber, we’re sipping that air and looking for aerosolization. In other words, particles that might be coming off that water.”

Allan said: “And then the artificial lung, which has different layers going from the trachea down to the area solely in the lung. And we can use that to determine how far in the human lung the toxin particles are actually going.”

But the next step in their research has arrived.

“And then the machine over here is used to determine the size and the count of each particle size. So we’ll be able to actually, like very accurately, determine what size particles and how many of each size category are being aerosolized,” Allan said.

From this research, they can learn how aerosolization is impacting the natural environment.

“As well as how that’ll impact us based on how many of these toxin particles are being put into the air and therefore how much we’re breathing in,” Allan said.

The next step for their research is adding in new variables like salinity or temperature to see how that affects cells.

They know salinity in water shrinks cells but they don’t know how that affects toxin release.